They Call Me Mom – Review and Q&A With Pete Springer

If you haven’t met Pete Springer yet, you are in for a treat. Genuinely kind and encouraging, driven to recognize and appreciate others, and humble to a fault; he is the sort of human we need representing our species should aliens ask to speak with our leader.

What does that have to do with people calling him “Mom?” Pete worked as an elementary school teacher for 31 years. After retirement, he wrote a book. And, I read it.

© Chel Owens

In true Pete fashion, he wrote in order to help others. His non-fiction They Call Me Mom is chock-full of advice and instruction for teachers of all levels. He’s included plenty of his own experiences, admonitions, and the occasional touching or humorous anecdote.

One story, about a girl from a family being raised by a single mother, brought me to happy-tears. That same story is also on his blog: “The Trip.” There’s a bit of a name change of the protagonist, but the gist of the story is that a cute, little second-grader informs Mr. Springer that she is saving all of her money in order to take her family on a trip.

I also enjoyed reading about Pete’s mishaps before discovering he wanted to be a teacher, including stints as a tree-planter and Olympics event ticket-seller. His mishaps after discovering teaching are equally entertaining but, naturally, more heart-warming.

With every anecdote, Pete masterfully turns the events and morals to a life lesson. The man simply exudes being a teacher; he can’t seem to help it.

If that weren’t enough, Pete agreed to answer a few questions:

1. You have a lot of advice in your book. If you could give a new teacher only three tips, what would they be?
A. Believe that you do have the power to make a difference.  Some child is going to go on to do great things because of you.  What an amazing feeling and immense responsibility!
B. I can’t take credit for this one, but I believe it with all my heart:  Maya Angelou—”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
C. If I could, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat with one change—look after yourself as well as you do your students.  If you don’t take care of yourself, then you can’t help them.

2. Many male teachers prefer higher grades or positions of authority. Did you ever regret staying in elementary school?
Never.  Everyone has to find the right age for himself/herself.  I seriously thought about becoming a principal, but I would have missed having my own classroom too much and hanging out with “my kids” each day.  It was like being part of a big family.  I could have taught middle school, high school, or even college, but I felt like I could impact the most people by teaching elementary school.

3. With both you and your wife teaching, did you find a work/life balance more difficult?
Having a spouse in the same profession was a good thing because both of us knew exactly how the other was feeling when one of us had a bad day.  Sometimes we felt like talking about it, and other times we didn’t.  My wife and I laughed a lot together, and there were times we’d end up in hysterics over some of the absurdities of schools and children.

4. When do teachers use the bathroom?
Next to never.  I always tried to leave my room for a few minutes at lunch, but I didn’t even manage that some days.  In an emergency (a couple of times a year), I might call the office or another teacher to ask them to send somebody to my room for a minute.  If no one were available, sometimes we’d call another teacher who was on their break.  Sometimes I brought my entire class to the next-door neighbor’s classroom for a couple of minutes when there was no other option. They could also do the same.

And, he gave us a bonus answer!
Extra tidbits of wisdom:  Teaching is a team effort.  Don’t try to do it all alone.  You need to keep the parents informed because they want to know what’s going on, and most will be super appreciative of your efforts.  Don’t live on an island—engage with the other teachers to see how you can find ways to work together to improve the program.  Remember to have fun with your class.  Years later, they aren’t going to remember your math or writing lessons. But they will remember that you ran around on the playground with them, dressed up in ridiculous costumes with them, and went to their extracurricular activities because you cared about them more than anything else.

From Amazon, where you can purchase your own!

If you or someone you know would like a short, sweet book on teaching; pick up a copy today. I’m not a teacher and still benefitted from his recommendations. After all, are we not all teachers in some capacity?

Keep a lookout for Pete in the future as well! He’s working on a fictional story for YA, next!

From Pete’s blog:

My name is Pete Springer. I taught elementary school for thirty-one years (grades 2-6) at Pine Hill School in Eureka, CA. Even though I retired over three years ago, my passion will always lie with supporting education, kids, and teachers.

When I came out of the teaching program many years ago, I realized how unprepared I was for what was in store for me in the classroom. My college education focused mostly on learning theory rather than the practical day-to-day challenges that all teachers face. Thankfully, I had some great mentors to lean on to help support me in the early part of my career.

I have made it my mission to pay it forward to the next generation of teachers. I was a master teacher to four student teachers, and I have several former students who are now teachers, including one who teaches at my former elementary school. That is pretty cool!

While I was teaching, I decided that one day I would write books for children. That ship is now in the harbor. I took some writing workshops, found a critique group, joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and I’m nearing the end of writing my first middle-grade novel. I’m writing for middle-school boys, as I don’t feel there are enough good books for that age level.

Interview answers, photo, and bio © Pete Springer
Blog post © Chel Owens

© Chel Owens

Unraveling the Veil, Book One: Liars and Thieves – Review, Q&A, and Book Release With D. Wallace Peach

Waaaay back in my infanblogcy, I stumbled upon D. Wallace Peach. Maybe I followed a trail of adoring fans; maybe I read an entry she did for Carrot Ranch; or maybe her reputation guided my searchings. I still recall the very first blog post I read: a snippet from a book she wrote about a girl witnessing an execution and feeling emotions where she was not supposed to. The idea was that people did not feel and the girl was an aberration.

At that point, I vowed I would purchase and read one of Diana’s books. This year, I did so. In fact, I did so twice because she released a brand-new series: Unraveling the Veil.

Liars and Thieves (Unraveling the Veil Book 1) by [D. Wallace Peach]
Buy it from Amazon!

When I asked D. Wallace about my doing a review and Q&A after reading the first book, she agreed! D. is one of the most genuine and nicest people I’ve ever corresponded with; the sort I know would invite me in with a smile and an invitation to dinner if I e-mailed her that I happened to be near her secret writing room.

Liars and Thieves, the first book in this trilogy, begins with an omniscient POV of one Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, who is launching psionic canons or somesuch in order to break something called The Veil. His attack is rebuffed and his damages repaired, buuuuut his efforts cause energy lapses in the lands beyond The Veil.

We’re then thrown into the perspective of a goblin -a half-goblin, actually- named Naj’ar, then that of Elanalue Windthorn the elf, then that of a changeling who mostly goes by Talin Raska.

Yep; this is a fantasy novel.

The story unfolds through these three different characters and the parts where their adventures intersect and intertwine. Each represents and reveals the good and bad of their distinct, interesting races. Each has personal powers, personalities, and flaws. Each is intriguing to read.

After I finished reading the book, Diana agreed to answer a few questions:

1. Where did your initial inspiration for the races in your world come from?

First, thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Chelsea. And for the great questions. I love chatting about books and writing.

The inspiration for Liars and Thieves had its origin in US politics where blaming, racial bullying, and blatant lies had crept from the shadows and become unabashedly mainstream. Rather than deal honestly with the nation’s challenges, children and families became targets, sacrificed in order to instill fear and amass power.

I started thinking… what would happen if this situation occurred in a fantasy world where a god (the First of Chaos) was responsible for an inciting event—the disappearance of a group of people? And instead of working together to determine the truth and find a solution, the different races began blaming each other. And what if all this unjustified blame started magnifying existing challenges and creating new ones that subsequently grew out of control?

Now, this is a work of fantasy, so like most fiction, it developed a life of its own. The races are elves, goblins, and changelings. There are monsters and gods, and plenty of magical talents. No one is innocent, and together they almost destroy their world… all because it was easier to assign blame than take responsibility, work together, and learn the truth—which was that none of them were at fault in the first place.

2. Some fantasy authors invent languages; but, with the exception of the mountain peoples (goblins) speaking in the royal we, you’ve kept them at a universal lingo. Why?

My book Sunwielder has a made-up language. But not much of it. I love designing languages, but it’s something I do sparingly, because, quite literally, no one can read it! Sentences of “fake words” end up being skimmed, and an author needs to decide why those skimmed words are so important to the story. The author also has to take the time to translate without awkwardness and without bogging down the prose.

I think different languages can be implied through dialect, a sprinkling of made-up words, more formal dialog, or stumbling “second language” speech. Even these approaches have to be carefully applied, since too much tweaking can draw the reader’s attention to the writing and away from the story. In this series, the goblins are a collective society so they use “we” instead of “I,” and “us” instead of “me.” They also don’t use contractions in dialog. That seemed like plenty to establish that goblins had a different way of speaking.

3. Do you feel it’s important to have rules and limits to magic, and how have you applied that to your races? 

Absolutely! Some of the best magic systems I’ve read are those created by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Elantris). Sanderson distinguishes between “soft magic” and “hard magic” and suggests that they lie on a continuum. Soft magic is full of wonder and has few rules. The magic users have mysterious abilities and can do whatever they wish with little limitation.

Hard magic lies on the other end of the spectrum, and here is where the rules come into play. In the case of hard magic, it becomes an integral plot device in the story. Two critical requirements of hard magic are 1) strict limitations and 2) flaws or costs to the user. 

In most of my books, magic is centered around one magical item (a book or an amulet) or one ability (the power to manipulate emotions or swallow souls). 

In the Unraveling the Veil series, the magic system is based on the manipulation of energy, and it’s much broader, with each race possessing different kinetic talents.

  • Goblins are terrakinetic and can manipulate earth-matter.
  • Changelings are biokinetic and can alter their biological patterns.
  • Elves have various kinetic abilities, singularly or in combination: photokinetic (light), pyrokinetic (fire), and hydrokinetic (water), to name a few.

As I designed the magic system, it became apparent that changelings had the most powerful talent, and therefore they needed the most challenges when using it. I imposed these limitations/costs: 

  • Shifting is physically agonizing
  • Shifting leaves the user temporarily weak and vulnerable
  • Too long in a foreign shape makes the shift permanent
  • And a significant change in mass requires the absorption or release of energy. This generates temperature changes in the atmosphere, which, at worst, can start disastrous fires. In other words, don’t shift from a man into a bug in the middle of the forest!

4. What is the best dessert ever invented?

Oooh. This is the hardest question of all!  Lol. Can I pick 3?  In summer, I love strawberry shortcake. In winter, I want warm berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. And I won’t turn down a creamy cheesecake any time of year! They all have to be sugar-free and low-calorie though. 

Thanks again for the invite, Chelsea. This was great fun. Happy Reading!

Author Bio:

D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Author Links:

Website/Blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com

Website/Books: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com

Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Myths-of-the-Mirror/187264861398982

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dwallacepeach

©2020 Chel Owens. Responses ©2020 D. Wallace Peach

As a side note, this book is clean enough that I promptly handed it to my twelve-year-old to read. He’s burned through all my fantasy series and needed a wonderful, new book to read.
-This is also why I couldn’t flip through the book to remember specific character names and references.

The Sincerest Form of Poetry: Review, Q&A, and Book Release With Geoff LePard

Geoff LePard -thank goodness- is unlike other authors. Where most would see a greening woodland dappled in midday light and write about fairies, Geoff is apt to whip up a dialogue ‘txixt Madame Rootbringerton and her onerous neighbor, Sir Pansybottom.

And that dialogue is not always appropriate for general audiences.

When Geoff announced plans to write and publish a book of poetry, I therefore wasn’t sure what to expect. Spurred by forays into this site’s Terrible Poetry contests and encouraged by his muse, Geoff pursued his dream and has produced The Sincerest Form of Poetry.

All of life in one easy couplet

To write poetry I need inspiration. Often that comes from my appreciation of the craftsmanship of other, better poets, whose skills I aspire to emulate. For this anthology, I have chosen two such sources: in part one, the search for Britain’s favourite poem led to the publication of the top 100 and I have used a number of these to craft my own take on those beautiful and inspirational works; in part two, my love of the sonnet form, fostered by reading Shakespeare’s gems has provided a selection covering many topics and themes. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them.

-Geoff LePard

Half parody pastiche and half sonnet, Monsieur LePard outdoes himself. After reading, I came up with a few questions which he has graciously answered:

1. Many of your poems seem inspired by a certain topic or event. Could you pick one (parody or sonnet) and describe your inspiration for it?

-Sure (and your surmise is quite right). In the first section – Parody? Hmm, I might debate that some time, though I’ve had them called pastiche too which is worse – sorry, moving on… Foreign Is Quite Ghastly is a political rant, inspired, or maybe despaired is the appropriate term, by one word. Brexit. A word that will define my generation’s stupidity, pointy-headed narrow-mindedness and casual xenophobia.

Foreign Is Quite Ghastly
(Home Thoughts, From Abroad, Robert Browning)

Oh to be in England
Rather than ‘abroad’
To say travel broadens the mind
Is really quite absurd.
It’s dusty here, and full of smells
Against which the most robust rebels
And, God, the din the locals make
And don’t get me on what they boil and bake.
I’ll gift a kidney if you’ll just allow
Me back to England. Now!

The birds they have hereabouts
Have beady eyes and beaks of steel,
And I really must confess my doubts:
These evil beasts cannot be real?
Back home in dear old Blighty
Our beaded tits are cute and flighty
And fill my soul with careless rapture.
Hearts should sing! They shouldn’t rupture!

I’ve got my ticket, I’m on my way
Back to England’s green gold shores;
I’m done with ‘foreign’, outdone my stay
Take me home, to know-all bores,
To potholed roads and warm flat beer:
I’m an Englishman: get me outta here!

In structuring the poem, I began by focusing on certain well-established tropes that are raised by those whose experiences of ‘foreign’ have not been good: the strange smells when one alights from train or plane; the noise from local markets or minarets, made less attractive because it’s in a language that no self respecting Brit would want to understand; and the strange local diets inflicted on our poor traveller, which is a strange conceit given the British have adopted the mild curry as their own national dish. To give one example, I well recall my first holiday in Spain – I was 22 – when I was prevailed upon to spend a week on the Costa Brava, amongst so many other Brits. One sign, on a café, said it sold ‘tea like mum makes’: not only was it squarely aimed at we Brits and our obsession with tea but the joke had to be in English because it wouldn’t work in the local tongue.

In verse two, I’ve turned to another snobbish stereotype: that somehow Britain’s green and pleasant land – it’s natural environment – is so much nicer than everywhere else: our climate is benign; there are no poisonous creatures that will kill you (unless you have an unusual, and frankly not very British allergic reaction to say a bee string); there are no tier one predators that can out do a domesticated Brit (sure, cows can trample you and there are a few dogs I’d not want to be alone with for long) and the risk of being eaten is very remote. Further more our indigenous fauna are cuddly and cute, made more so by the propensity to anthropomorphise them in children’s literature – Wind In The Willows even rehabilitated a rat for pity’s sake. Everywhere else you have snakes that kill with a toxic glance, mammals whose teeth fail all health and safety procedures and bird life that put the lie on the theory that the dinosaurs died out.

In the final verse, I turn to consider what it is that draws the Brit home and poke fun at our acceptance of our inadequacies because, well, they’re so much better than everyone else’s inadequacies. Essentially it’s a dig at the one British past-time at which we have no superiors: our ability to moan. In the last two lines, there are two allusions which you probably need to be British to get: ‘warm flat beer’ is a reference to the chief Brexit stirrer, Nigel Farage who would often be photo’ed in a British pub sipping a pint of the ghastly muck, to prove his domestic credentials. And ‘get me outta here’ is a cultural reference to the TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity; Get me Outta here’; we like to make a big play on our cultural superiority: Shakespeare and theatre, the BBC and TV dramas and comedies Nowadays our exports are of a more prosaic nature: The Great British Bake Off, Strictly Come Dancing and Top Gear. How far have we fallen.

2. In my experience, some people are afraid of writing poetry. What advice would you give a writer who feels timid at the idea of trying a poem?

Oh dear, that’s easy to say: just write. I think people expect poetry to be a special skill and they have to have the knack or they can’t do it. I like to think of poetry as structured prose anyway. If you can write a sentence you can write poetry and some poetry is just differently aligned prose anyway.

Your lesson to me [when I applied for some advice years ago] is a great place to start. Go outside, sit and stare and then write down all you see, hear, smell and, if you do, taste and touch. Then see if anything jumps out at you as an idea or thought you’d like to pursue. Poetry doesn’t have to be about imagery or emotion, it doesn’t need metaphor or simile. It can be glib and silly. The fact that I like form is my weakness rather than a guide to how it’s done. I often wonder if we fail our children by offering them so much in rhyme that they feel the need to rhyme their poetry and that carries through to limit them in adulthood. 

3. What would you rhyme with ‘orange?’

Some say it is those on the fringe
On whose votes this election will hinge;
But despite all the chatter
It’s skin tone that’ll matter:
A grey face or one that’s orange.

—–

On Geoff’s permission, I’ve included another of his poems that I enjoyed:

The Inner Musings of Clouds
(Daffodils, William Wordsworth)

I wandered lonely as a cloud
Which is pretty daft for a man of fifty,
Cos, unlike a cloud, and I’m not proud
To admit, I’m not, these days, so nifty
As once I was. I’ve put on weight
Through beer and pies, and grown a paunch
That’s round and hard. I’m not the slight
Young fella, who’d down a vat at lunch
With space to drink the same at dinner.
Clouds are lonely, so posits old Will,
Like me, they’re seen as less saint than sinner
Who’ll rain on everyone’s parade, until
The fun stops. But we don’t care, cloudy and me;
We are what we are: grey, fat, round and free.

To pick up your own copy, visit Tangental.com or Amazon. Stick around his blog for some great stories and some envy-worthy views of Geoff’s garden as well.

The beautiful cover for The Sincerest Form of Poetry, ©2020 Geoff LePard

—–

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.
Geoff 1

Smashwords

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Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.Geoff2

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

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In this, the second book in the Harry Spittle Sagas, it’s 1981 and Harry is training to be a solicitor. His private life is a bit of a mess and he’s far from convinced the law is for him. Then an old acquaintance from his hotel days appears demanding Harry write his will. When he dies somewhat mysteriously a few days later and leaves Harry in charge of sorting out his affairs, Harry soon realises this will be no ordinary piece of work. After all, his now deceased client inherited a criminal empire and several people are very interested in what is to become of it.


Geoff3

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

The third instalment of the Harry Spittle Sagas moves on the 1987. Harry is now a senior lawyer with a well-regarded City of London firm, aspiring to a partnership. However, one evening Harry finds the head of the Private Client department dead over his desk, in a very compromising situation. The senior partner offers to sort things out, to avoid Harry embarrassment but soon matters take a sinister turn and Harry is fighting for his career, his freedom and eventually his life as he wrestles with dilemma on dilemma. Will Harry save the day? Will he save himself?


Geoff4

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015.


Geoff5

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Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.
Geoff6

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Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?
Geoff7

Smashwords

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Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages.
Geoff8

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Smashwords

 

Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.
Geoff9

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Life in a Conversation is an anthology of short and super short fiction that explores connections through humour, speech and everything besides. If you enjoy the funny, the weird and the heart-rending then you’ll be sure to find something here.
Geoff10

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

 

 

When Martin suggests to Pete and Chris that they spend a week walking, the Cotswolds Way, ostensibly it’s to help Chris overcome the loss of his wife, Diane. Each of them, though, has their own agenda and, as the week progresses, cracks in their friendship widen with unseen and horrifying consequences.
Geoff11

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Famous poets reimagined, sonnets of all kinds, this poetry selection has something for all tastes, from the funny, to the poignant to the thought-provoking and always written with love and passion.
Geoff12

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page

©2020 Chel Owens
Geoff LePard’s works © Geoff LePard. Don’t cross him; he’s a lawyer

Another Update -Woohoo

Look at that: only two days in, and I’m already boring you. But, wait -it’s important.

  • I will be adding book reviews to the blog. I definitely want to read and review ones by people I know, so drop me a line if you’d like me to read, review, and interview.
  • I will be starting the new and improved terrible poetry contest tomorrow Saturday!!! Problem is, I can’t think of a catchy-enough name. “Funny Poetry” and “Humorous Poetry” strike me as too ho-hum for an event that will be anything but! Drop me another line with a name idea for our new contest.
  • I will be answering people’s prompts and doing a few of my own. I can’t participate every week/day/hour, but can pop in once a month or so. Drop me a third line with whatever prompt you do and when.
  • I will now be leaving to pick up children from school. Drop me a line about how your Coronalife is going.
Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square

War! Adventure! Boring desk jobs! Drinking! Compulsions! Evil paranormal enemies?

A week ago Monday, I got a very long-anticipated book in the mail.

I met Stephen Black way back when he followed my blog as part of growing his. He’s moved on to securing 11,000+ followers, finishing his manuscript, and finally (FINALLY!) publishing.

Even though I’m deathly envious of his success, I’m also freakin’ proud. Great job, Stephen!

But what about the book??

Skelly’s Square is only my second or third experience with reading a newbie author’s work. Plus, I’ve known Stephen through his blog’s awkward teenage years. Plus, I’m a …bit of a spelling and grammar fiend.

-Which didn’t matter in the slightest. To me, an excellent book is one I get lost in. Somewhere along the way I’m part of the characters and story; we’re seamless and it’s beautiful. Skelly’s Square became just such an experience for me.

Colonel Augustus Skelly is the name of a man the main character, Kirkwood Scott, sees in very realistic visions. Skelly is a demon of sorts. He preys on Scott’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by making him follow a series of routines determined by dice rolls. These routines are called The 49. Scott knows storms, tempests, abductions, and death around the world will happen should he refuse The 49.

In the midst of a life ruled by this and periods of blackout drinking to avoid it, Scott stumbles across a homeless young woman, Meredith Starc. Starc also practices alcoholic numbing because of a depressive event in her past.

The two, and cosmic forces interested in keeping them down, cross paths. Why? What is their importance? How can they possibly mean anything toward …the fate of the world?

Stephen Black’s delivered a doozy of a first novel. Skelly’s Square is a creation to be proud of. Plus, it’s an engaging fantasy adventure to boot!

Go, visit Amazon and pick up your own.

Do it!!

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©2019 Chelsea Owens

The Dot

Stock photo

Whilst considering my favorite children’s books, I realized that most made the list based on favorites of my childhood. Not to become set in my old ways, however, I have found several excellent additions in seeking out books for the children I have since produced.

Such is the case with The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

It tells the very simple story of a young girl named Vashti who is determined that she cannot do art. Her teacher, meanwhile, is just as certain that Vashti can.

I love how we get an idea of the personalities of the characters in a few lines of actions: Vashti’s practical stabbing of a dot onto paper shows her attitude, and her teacher’s encouragement and action of framing that first dot demonstrate understanding.

Teaching is, and has always been, a career plagued by under-appreciation. Teachers are responsible for connecting with a classroom or more of children, dumping information into little brains, and somehow still maintaining order. They also care for their students, cry about poor life situations, and think about hundreds to thousands of past lives they’ve been touched by.

The Dot is not just about a young girl finding courage to express herself. It is also the story of what every teacher aims for: a lesson learned, a life improved, and the benefits passed on to others.

It’s short, simple, sweet, artistic, and touching. If you haven’t, spend a minute reading it. Since it’s more recent, I even found readings of it online.

The Sneetches

The_Sneetches_and_Other_Stories

Ah, Dr. Suess. What a fantastic writer! Many know that his real name was Theodor Suess Geisel, and that he drew political cartoons and even produced several short films before the fame of The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham. If not, I taught you something new.

I love poetry. Perhaps you’ve seen some of mine or have read my post about Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Dr. Suess is the best poet for young children. Believe me: I have children and was once a child myself. Because of those two things, I have read some terribly crappy attempts at rhymes in books geared toward kids. Suess, on the other hand, wrote simple poetry with simple words and simple illustrations long before sight word/level reading stuff. And Suess didn’t suck.

As a parent, I say the true sign of excellence in youth material is whether I can watch or read it and not want to gnaw my own arm off just to get away. I can read Suess’ books repeatedly and enjoy them.

The Sneetches is no exception. The story follows a group of creatures who all look the same -except some have a star on their bellies. “…(B)ecause they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches/Would brag, ‘We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.'” Meanwhile, the Plain-Belly Sneetches are excluded, spending their time together feeling sad at being left out.

And that’s how they treated them year after year.

Why didn’t the Plain-Bellies just hold their own frankfurter roasts and ball games? Well, we get some clue as to the common sense of these yellow, birdlike animals when a stranger comes to their beaches and specifically addresses the left-out group:

“My friends,” he announced in a voice clear and keen,
“My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
And I’ve heard of your troubles. I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that. I’m the Fix-it-Up Chappie.”

 

McBean builds a machine that can put stars on bellies, and charges $3 apiece. Then, when the original group is upset over the class-leveling, he builds another machine that removes stars (for $10 each!). Chaos ensues, expressed in my favorite stanza of the tale:

They kept paying money. They kept running through
Until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
Whether this one was that one . . . or that one was this one
Or which one was what one . . . or what one was who.

 

It pleasantly tickles a literary nerve, doesn’t it? Sigh.

The last literary element that makes Dr. Suess the best is teaching a moral. The Lorax and such are more heavy-handed than I like, but The Sneetches gives us a gentle tap of reprimand.

After McBean literally takes all their money, he leaves. “They never will learn,” he laughs. “No. You can’t teach a Sneetch.” Seuss, meanwhile, tells us a different message:

But McBean was quiet wrong. I’m quite happy to say
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day….

 

Read Suess, even for yourself. Share this story with others. Then, perhaps, the world will remember that “…Sneetches are Sneetches/And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.”

The Very Worst Missionary

TheVeryWorstMissionary

I haven’t been able to read an actual, physical book since…

Let’s see: how old is my youngest? And, how long was his gestation period? Divide by four, carry the two, add a year… Maybe we’d better go with a very safe date. When did the Berlin Wall fall again?

This uncultured gulf has been due to children, children, and housework. Lately, however, I’m pleased to confess that my free reading time has been spent catching up on the blogs that automatically fill my inbox with 45 daily posts.

Yeah, yeah. I know I need to cut back. I can stop anytime I want. It’s my life; my choice.

What does this rambling have to do with the title of my blog post tonight? It’s called “setting the scene.” For; I found out about a woman’s blog, and accompanying book, whilst reading through the Fractured Faith site. I think.

Point is, I read one post by Jamie Wright about how to edit the swearing in her published book and was laughing audibly (for you, M). Right there, on the spot, I ordered her book from the Amazon. After it arrived, I read it non-stop. You know, between feeding, cleaning, avoiding work, writing, sleeping, conversing, and living.

It took me a few days, but Jamie Wright’s book was FREAKING HILARIOUS.

Allow me, if you will, to quote some of my favorite passages:

“God will not be swallowed like a pill to cure herpes of your soul so you can run in a field of sunflowers with your hot boyfriend.”

 

“When you struggle in your forties with things that wrecked you at fifteen, I don’t think you’re supposed to say so out loud. It makes people uncomfortable.

“Everyone loves an underdog, but we prefer our stories of wrestling and redemption to be told in the past tense: I was depressed. I had anxiety. I felt insecure. I slept around… We’d rather hear from drunks when they’re sober, our depressed when they’re happy, our sick when they’re healed. We want to see wild horses broken and to believe in the hands that tamed them, because most of us hold our own dark places of wrestling with unbridled messes in our souls that sometimes spill over into life, and we desperately need to see that maybe we too can overcome the things that are ruining us.”

 

“The past lies beneath our beliefs like the soil of our soul. It’s the wet clay and dry bones and clumpy dirt, the grit and gravel, the small stones and loose sand, and the petrified turds that the adult formation of our faith must rest upon. Your history is like an inheritance, a patch of land that, though you may not have had much choice in its early cultivation, belongs solely to you.”

As you can read, she’s a conversational storyteller with an attitude; but one who says some deeply profound things in a relatable way.

This was worth the cost of actual purchase, plus more. You should get a copy, too.

Fair warning, however: if you are a prudish sort in terms of language, buy the book and follow her guide for editing. She’s unapologetic about some very common cuss words, but you’ll be able to black out the most egregious.

And, frankly, she makes it very clear that you can take her as she is or, simply, not. I consider myself very prudish over cussing, but found her profanity fit perfectly well with the dialogue of the writing.